The Tests of Time (Book 1) ✔

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The Truth Set Free

April 22, 1931
London, England


Elinor felt as if she were floating through a nightmare. She could barely remember when her sobs had softened into sniffles or when she briefly explained what happened to Brackston, Carter, and Ivan. She avoided some details, like the long forgotten memories that now haunted her mind and the truth about her lineage. It felt like the wrong time to discuss such a private matter.

The woman who shot and chased after Autumn returned sometime later, a heavy look of disappointment on her face. It was clear that Autumn had managed to escape. Brackston briefly explained to Elinor that the woman was Moura Budberg, one of Wells’s mistresses who was believed to be a spy.

At some point throughout all of this, Ivan had to let go of Elinor so that he could have a conversation with Carter and Brackston. She was disappointed but at least grateful that he left her with his suit jacket to wrap herself in, the warmth and scent of him was a comfort to her aching heart.

“How are you feeling?” a voice interrupted her thoughts, drawing her back into the current moment.

Elinor glanced over to see Moura staring at her softly, concern hidden within the woman’s eyes. Elinor swallowed hard, tightening Ivan’s suit jacket around her. “Like my life can’t possibly get any worse,” she admitted, blinking rapidly in an attempt to hold back tears.

Elinor watched as Moura pressed her lips tightly together, nodding slowly in response to Elinor’s statement. Elinor could see that the woman was struggling to come up with something to say. Eventually the woman looked down at her hands, which drew Elinor’s attention to something resting in them. She didn’t notice it a second ago but Moura was holding what appeared to be a worn out, tattered journal in her hands. The woman extended it out to her, a weak smile crossing her face.

“He would have wanted you to have this,” she spoke softly, glancing back up at Elinor. “His greatest regret was never having the opportunity for you two to get to know one another, so he hoped that one day this would make it into your hands and provide some much needed answers.”

Elinor frowned slightly as her eyes lingered on the well used object, unsure if she should take the journal or not. What bothered her more about all this was that Moura seemed to have an inkling as to who she really was. “You know who I am?” Elinor asked softly, a bit surprised. “I mean, you know what he did to protect me?”

Moura nodded, slightly amused by Elinor’s surprise.

“And… How on earth are you not questioning his sanity in all of this?” Elinor groaned, rubbing her temples with her fingers. “Time travel sucks,” she thought to herself, shaking her head.

Moura chuckled lightly at Elinor’s reaction. “My dear, between you and me, you see many interesting things when you’re living life as a spy. Nothing your father did was ever a total surprise. A bit unusual at times, perhaps even sometimes manic, but never a surprise.”

Based upon what she remembered from her brief time with him and what she read in his journal, Elinor understood what Moura was trying to say. Now there was a journal that would allow her a deeper, more personal look into her father. Her hands shaking slightly, she gingerly took the worn journal from Moura’s hands. A heavy feeling weighed on her heart as she struggled to find the strength to open it. Shaking her head, she forced herself to look back at Moura. “So, he told you about me?” Elinor questioned, watching as Moura gave her a small smile.

“My dear, he talked about you regularly. He really missed you. I may not have been keen on his lifestyle of many mistresses but I know that losing both your mother and you left a big pit in his heart, one that he tried desperately to fill,” Moura stated, tilting her head as she glanced at Elinor thoughtfully. “I can assure you that out of all his works, you were his greatest creation.”

Elinor wasn’t aware that she was on the verge of tears until she sniffed softly, looking down at the journal as she ran her fingers over the surface. She glanced back up to thank Moura but the woman had left to take care of other matters across the room.

Turning her gaze back to the book, Elinor turned the journals flap open with trembling hands as she released a heavy sigh. She could feel the heavy sensation of her heart sinking as a lump formed in her throat at the sight of the first words that met her eyes. “My darling, may these words be a light for you as you have been for me.”

Elinor was interrupted by the sound of someone softly clearing their throat before she could continue flipping through the journal, her eyes lifting to see Ivan standing just before her. She couldn’t figure out why he was staring at her with such a broken, sad gaze but in blinking, she could feel the bitter warmth of tears running down her cheeks.

Closing the journal, she gave him a weak smile as she wiped the tears from her cheeks. “I’ve had one hell of a day,” she mumbled softly, thinking back to the conversation they had a few days prior where he had stated something similar.

Despite the seriousness of the moment, Ivan was able to manage a small smile at her attempt to make things light. He was amazed at her ability to find ways to lift the heaviness of a situation. “Do you want to talk about it?” he asked softly, taking in the way her smile melted into a frown. “You don’t have to if you’re not ready.”

She never answered his question. He watched as she glanced down quietly at a ratty journal in her small hands, her face serious and her eyes distant. This pretty much told him that she wasn’t ready to open up about this just yet. Tilting his head slightly, he carefully reached his hand out towards her. “Let’s get you home.”

<>

The time machine wasn’t as sleek or clean as the previous machine she had witnessed but the sight of the chunky, worn down time machine gave her a sense of comfort as Ivan helped her in through the open hatch.

The inside had a similar layout to the Whittaker ship with a few differences. Her eyes would have wandered over the interior of the ship had it not been for the sudden motion of Ivan climbing in to sit across from her. Her expression grew dark as Ivan leaned forward to buckle her seatbelt, her mind thinking back on Elias. She felt sick that he’d never properly be laid to rest, that he’d forever be lost in 1931.

After making sure her seatbelt was securely buckled, Ivan’s eyes glanced up to Elinor’s stormy eyes staring intently at his hands resting on the seat belt buckle. He wanted to do something to wipe her pale, heartbreaking expression from her face. While he knew that he couldn’t take away all the pain, he knew he could at least restore a little hope to her downhearted gaze. “I have someone for you,” he spoke softly, reaching down to unzip something sitting next to his chair. “I believe this might be your bear?”

Elinor watched with curious eyes that quickly widened at the familiar sight of a stuffed animal he held in his hands. She barely registered the animal as the stuffed bear she had packed in her backpack to bring with her before a brief memory crossed her mind. A man who looked eerily similar to Ivan knelt down before her, asking her a similar question as he handed the bear to her. She squeezed her eyes shut tightly, her heart racing as tears formed in her eyes from the prickle of pain.

Ivan watched with concern as Elinor clutched her head, her eyes squeezing shut as a couple tears streamed down her face. It took a second for him to register that she was in agony. “El?” Ivan asked, his voice filled with a worried tone that quickly caught both Brackston’s and Carter’s attention. “El, what’s wrong?”

Elinor shook her head quickly, forcing her eyes to open as the pain in her head from the memory subsided so that she could meet Ivan’s worried gaze. She hated the way the three of them were looking at her in concern, prepared to jump to her aid. She was the last person who deserved their pity. Swallowing hard, she bit back a sob. “My entire life has been nothing but a lie,” she blurted out finally, her gaze falling to the journal that rested in her lap as she raised her hand to wipe her tears with the palm of her hand. “I’ve lived my whole life thinking I was just the odd one in a giant family, born in the wrong time period because I was always so fascinated with times that were not my own. I never thought I belonged, and it turns out I was right. The people I’ve always thought were my family, the life that I always thought was mine? It never truly was.”

Ivan’s eyebrows knitted together in concern at her words, unsure of how to respond to her statement or her trembling voice. Nothing she was saying made a lot of sense, to the point that he wondered if maybe Whittaker had done something to mess with her mind. He was grateful to hear Brackston’s voice pipe up beside him so that he didn’t have to press her for a better explanation.

“What do you mean?” Brackston questioned, narrowing his eyes at Elinor. He could see that she was getting worked up over something but she was trying her best to keep herself from getting to the sobbing state that they had found her in.

Shaking visibly, she glanced at each one of them with her tear filled eyes, her lips trembling as she searched for the strength to part her lips to speak. “Wells built a time machine,” she spoke finally, her voice strained from all the crying. She ignored the surprised gaze she received from each one of them, forcing herself to continue. “Over a month ago, I believe. He was forced to test it in an emergency situation. Whittaker was after him for whatever this damn key is, and he had to protect what mattered most to him, which happened to be his daughter’s life. So he successfully sent her forward in time to a safe place in the future but there were some complications...”

“How do you know all of this?” Carter asked firmly, his eyes locked intensely on Elinor.

Ivan wanted to snap at Carter for interrupting her but he couldn’t help but agree with Carter’s reasoning. He was also curious about the details of how this had to do with anything regarding her, and how she didn’t belong. He had a sinking feeling that he was starting to put the pieces together.

She couldn’t bring herself to face them for this next part. Despite being time travelers and being used to the insanity that this lifestyle brought with it, she was sure that her situation wouldn’t be taken as well as everything else they’ve probably been through.

“Because I’m the daughter of H.G. Wells and the daughter of a woman that Whittaker murdered to get back at him. He sent me forward in time to save my life.”

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